The Union Recorder

Local Sports

October 4, 2012

Shootouts not shutouts early norm in SEC

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The defensive-minded Southeastern Conference is generating headlines more for shootouts than shutouts.

The league that has won six straight national titles largely on the backs of powerful defenses had two teams combine for 1,000 yards Saturday afternoon. Then it happened again.

Texas A&M racked up 716 yards and 58 points in a rout of Arkansas, which piled up 515 yards. Then Georgia and Tennessee got into a new-fashioned shootout, combining for 1,038 yards in the Bulldogs' 51-44 victory.

Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze can hardly believe the gaudy numbers.

This is the SEC.

"I was shocked to see that Georgia-Tennessee score," Freeze said. "I grew up watching all those games, and usually you thought 21-17 was high. But my, how things have changed."

They have, indeed. Some SEC teams, and plenty of games, are bucking the conference's defensive tradition.

Through five weeks, SEC defenses have already surrendered 50-plus points four times, one more than all of last season. It's only happened on average 3.4 times over the past 10 seasons.

The Razorbacks have been the victims twice, including a 52-0 loss to Alabama.

The average yards allowed per game in the SEC has risen from 320.8 last season to 344.9 in 2012.

Not everyone welcomes the trend.

Powerful teams like No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 LSU, No. 6 South Carolina and No. 10 Florida are still getting it done old-school with stingy defense to go with solid offenses. Those teams and high-scoring Texas A&M all have top 10 scoring defenses nationally. No. 20 Mississippi State (13th) is only a few spots behind.

Then there are teams like No. 5 Georgia and Tennessee.

The Bulldogs rank 46th in scoring defense, a huge falloff from the other Top 25 teams. Tennessee's defense is giving up nearly 30 points a game, 81st nationally. Both have prolific offenses and star quarterbacks, though.

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